Taking you to Birmingham, Alabama, we join the party of Shaheed & DJ Supreme feat. Akil The MC from Jurassic 5 with their fresh new video for, "Champions of Truth". Found on the Southern duo's recent Communicating Vessels album, Knowledge, Rhythm, and Understanding; Shaheed and Supreme keep the wisdom old school with a new and expanding consciousness, found on their previous works, Health Wealth & Knowledge of Self, and the remix disc, Scholar Warrior. "Champions" pays tribute and toasts the good people and pride of Birmingham, with a unique glimpse into the Magic City that many are just now discovering.
Shaheed gives his blessing, and welcomes Jurassic 5's Akil the MC to elevate their meeting with sincere meaning and purpose. Akil gives it his all, knuckled-up rhymes of humility and thanks that dovetail with Shaheed's meditations of prayer, verse, and PMA. DJ Supreme flexes his encyclopedic production skills featured on the reg via his programming and selections on Birmingham's Hot 107.7, WUHT-FM. Supreme exalts and upholds the salute to enlightenment and heroes on "Champions of Truth" with classic backpacked beats and samples. Packing the backbeat with fixings from 90s Bay Area hip hop, 80s New York states of mind and a sweet Southern sensibility; Shaheed keeps the vibe and rhyme upbeat with the microphone love affair alive. "My friendship with my mic is more than just platonic, display this on your iPod, Sony, Panasonic…now you can play this in your car, truck, or your jeep, I have dreams about the mic and I don't even sleep". The 2ThreeFive video celebrates the jovial and lively culture of Birmingham, AL in a love note to the city that brings DJs, emcees, locals, and fans all together.
We had the pleasure of taking a tour of the Birmingham, Alabama scene circuits with Shaheed and DJ Supreme (Malone) in the following exclusive interview.
Birmingham, AL often gets looked over, but what is the truth of the city's scenes and heart that you all champion?
Supreme: The truth is Birmingham gets looked over because it’s not looked at as a place where music is the culture. However, Birmingham has a deep musical background on record dating back to Erskine Hawkins and Sun Ra. As far as hip hop, Birmingham has had a problem breaking through to the world but that’s all changed now. Thanks to social media, the grassroots word-of-mouth style of promotion has been turned way up. Another testament to how going the independent route can be a benefit.
Shaheed: The truth of the city’s scene is that it is constantly growing and growing and there are a lot of talented groups and musicians here and it has always been that way.
"Champions of Truth" is like a testament to your talents, and the video feels like a love note to B-ham. What are some of the aspects of wisdom and understanding that you all would like your listeners and viewers to walk away with?
Supreme: The credit belongs to Made in the Magic City. The video was directed by this talented group of visionaries and they did an awesome job. Our intention is to leave a legacy that far surpasses our generation and the only way we know to do that is through music and dawah. That’s where the understanding comes in. Shaheed and DJ Supreme just didn’t come about by happenstance. This is a well oiled machine and we’ve put in work for a lot of years.
Shaheed: The song represents how we try to go about life and our art. "Champions of Truth" is a title from a Book I studied with my teachers so it has a special meaning. The song is how we are champions of this hip hop art and we are trying our best to preserve what the goodness of this culture, and the video [from] Made In The Magic City just put their whole being into it and we are so thankful for that.
Tell us about the shared visions of your LP, Knowledge, Rhythm, and Understanding.
Supreme: We understood that this project had to be slightly different than our previous works. We combed through cases of beats before settling on the ones considered for this album. If it wasn’t in the cases then I’d make something on the spot and send it right to Shaheed. Nine out of ten he’ll already have some rhymes for it. If not then by the next day he’ll already have a song for it.
Shaheed: On this album we wanted to pay respects to the legends of hip hop who inspired us. DJ Supreme's beat making on this album compliments a time in hip hop when it was at it’s highest. Lyrically I just tried to come with an aggressive approach that still represented what we do and also pay respect to the leaders of the art.
What else is happening within the Communicating Vessels family?
Supreme: As far as Shaheed and DJ Supreme, we’re working on the next album with an EP to drop in between time. We’re also excited about the new album by The Green Seed.
Shaheed: We are already gearing up to do another album so that is where we are up to…
What are Green Seed up to these days?
Supreme: They’re about to drop a new album called Drapetomania. I assure you it’s amazing!
Shaheed: The Green Seed are getting ready to drop their masterpiece on the world…..
What else has been poppin' lately at The Bottletree? Any good shows there as of late worth noting?
Supreme: We recently did a show there January 11 with Great American Breakdown, Agent Cooper, Bands with Managers and Dirty Lungs. There was a packed crowd but as the night progressed we noticed the crowd started to thin out. We were headlining so immediately I’m thinking man the crowd will be tired or gone by the time we hit. Surprisingly there was a great number of people who stayed and we still had a big crowd.
Between the two of you(Shaheed & Supreme), how do you guys make the most between your synergy of production, beat and rhyme?
Supreme: Our work ethic is awesome and turnaround time on the music is impeccable. We treat every live performance like a rehearsal. For the record, Shaheed and I don’t have planned rehearsals. What you see at the show is what you get. Each show we do is like a rehearsal, real talk. I thank Allah everyday for putting us together. We read each other and give hand signals as musicians often do.
Shaheed: DJ Supreme makes the beat I write the rhymes and we understand that what we both do is important and we make sure we give our best and our brotherhood has grown as a result of that and I am very happy to have a brother and a master beat maker on this journey with me.
Having played together before with J5's Akil the MC, how did you all make the collab of 'Champions' happen?
Shaheed: Akil and I have been brothers and friends for a long time he has always supported us and helped us in any way he could. I just let him know I needed him for the album and he got right on it.
Parting thoughts on the future of the Alabama underground's rise to the top?
Supreme: Alabama underground’s problem is the same as Detroit, Philly, and even New York. Local radio used to be the pulse of the street. Now with the closing of the doors to most local programming and the opening of more syndicated programming, the prospect of local exposure becomes dissonant. As a result, local scenes don’t get to cultivate and grow. There are some exceptions to the rule. I happen to work in terrestrial radio for many years and I enjoy it to the fullest. I host the Classic Hip Hop Show on Hot 107.7, WUHT-FM.
Shaheed: The underground scene is where the hungriest artists are. We are very fortunate that a local internet radio station called Vulcanite Radio that play our music regularly as well as play other local artists as well, and we appreciate that. Locally, nationally and internationally we have been getting a lot of love since the album came out and we are going to continue to stay consistent and hard working…
Shaheed & DJ Supreme's album Knowledge, Rhythm, and Understanding is available now from Communicating Vessels.